Antonio Piccinardi says, in the "Dizionario di Gastronomia," that in northern Italy a braciola is a flat slice of meat, and he then traces the origin of the word to brace, or coals -- in other words, the word braciola describes a piece of meat suitable for being cooked over the coals rather than a specific cut from a specific animal. Which is true; if you visit a market you will find braciole di manzo, di vitella, di maiale, d'agnello, and even di cavallo -- beef, veal, pork, lamb, and even horse.
He goes on to say that in the North the braciola, which is generally cut from the lumbar or dorsal region of the animal, includes the bone, and could thus be considered a chop in English.
Artusi, who was born in Romagna and lived in Tuscany (Central Italy), instead often calls for a braciola senz'osso, or boneless braciola, and indeed in Tuscany the word braciola without a modifier is used to describe a boneless slice of beef or veal, what one might call a scallop in English. When I asked Dario Cecchini, Panzano's master butcher, what cut he uses for braciole, he replied Groppa, which is a specific muscle of the rump of a cow, adding that the closest thing to it in the US, where butchers do not usually separate the individual muscles, would be a more generic rump steak.
In southern Italy braciole are usually boneless slices of meat rolled up around a filling of some sort, what is called an involtino further north, and one might call a rollup in English. Again, the braciola is a slice of meat cooked in a certain way, not a slice of meat from a specific animal -- the tolled up braciola can be beef, veal, pork, and so on.
More information on Braciole, And Examples
- Dario Cecchini's Braciola:
The cut Dario uses for braciole, and what he suggests you do with it.
- Start With A (Flat) Braciola:
Classic recipes for scallops and similar, including the cotoletta alla milanese, fried Florentine braciole with tomato sauce, Cotolette alla Bolognese (Veal Parmesan in the English speaking world) and Saltimbocca alla Romana.
- Favorite Involtini, or Braciole:
A collection of rollup recipes, and since the concept or involtino need not be limited to meats, you will also find vegetable involtini here.
In English: Scallop, cutlet, chop, rollup